The Mystery of Hanukkah
When is Hanukkah Celebrated?
Hanukkah comes on different days each year in the Gregorian calendar, but always starts on the 25th of Kislev at sundown and lasts for 8 days.
2016: December 24th - January 1st
2017: December 12th - December 20th
The winter holiday season signifies a time for appreciation, family, remembrance, and an excuse to indulge in fabulous Kosher foods
. Hanukkah (which means “dedication” in Hebrew) is one holiday that a lot of people have heard about - it’s mentioned in commercials, store windows, and even given a thought in local schools. But it’s not a holiday, at least in America, that the general population is very familiar with. Hanukkah evokes the spirit of the winter season in an intuitive, thoughtful, and elegant way, which is why we've taken the time to look deeper at this well-known, but mysterious holiday.
One common misconception about Hanukkah is that it happens at the same time as Christmas. While this has happened in the past, Hanukkah is not a holiday that has a set date in the Western calendar. Hanukkah is consistently on the same date on the Jewish calendar, and begins on the 25th of Kislev, which typically falls in November or December on the Western calendar. This year, 2013, Hanukkah gets a head start on Christmas, starting just a few days after Thanksgiving on November 27th, and ending on December 5th. This year, while many Americans are working on the turkey and stuffing, Jewish families will be decorating their homes, displaying their menorahs proudly.
The Miracle of Hanukkah
The menorah is a symbol of what the Talmud (a central Jewish text) records as a true miracle. The story goes that around 168 B.C. Judah Maccabee and others who were involved in the cleansing and rededication of the Second Temple had only enough clean olive oil to keep their menorah candles burning for one day. However, the candles continued to burn for eight nights which left them time to find a fresh supply. This miraculous event inspired the eight-day holiday, often called the Festival of Lights.
No matter what name is used, the families celebrate the same way. The menorah they display is brought out in the evening after sundown to be lit. The menorah used today is a nine branch menorah, called a “hanukiah” in Hebrew. The middle branch holds the 9th candle, the lighting candle called the shamash (or “helper” in English) which is used to light each of the 8 candles on their respective nights. To celebrate the lighting of the candles, friends and family gather to indulge in luxurious foods, drinks, and gifts
. Traditionally, as another tribute to the oil that saved them, Jewish families fry their foods into delicious treats such as potatoes pancakes (latkes).
Besides feasting, enjoying the company of loved ones, and prayer, families, friends, and colleagues also exchange gifts. Traditionally one gift is opened by each person per evening, though I it's easy to imagine that particular tradition is broken from time to time, particularly amongst the young children. Though Christmas gets far more hype, Hanukkah, seems to have just as much impact, just as much close connection and pulling family ties tighter together. In hectic lives full of people being pulled in a thousand directions, it's exciting to discover and celebrate this holiday that devotes over a week to togetherness, family, love, charity, thanks, and - of course - classic comfort foods for everyone.
Where is Hanukah Celebrated?
Hanukkah is celebrated in every country in the world where Jewish people observe traditions and holidays.